Want to rule the Metaverse? Symbolism is key

Earlier this year, Traci and Dave Gagnon got married on the virtual platform Virbela. It was a hybrid event where part of the wedding also took place in “real life”. It is a sign of the times. The boundaries between “real” and “digital” are melting in what is increasingly being called the “metaverse”: a space that is not limited to virtual marriage, but where brands can become part of our DNA. digital.

It’s no longer a question of how far the metaverse will be a new marketing frontier. It’s about how quickly and creatively brands will use it to connect with their target audiences. And it’s not just a simple copy and paste or a simple transfer from 2D to 3D. Brands need new strategies, new ideas, and new iterations if they want to stay connected with audiences within this evolving virtual space. Basically, those who will thrive will be those who create new ways to symbolically express their meaning in the metaverse.

Symbolism has always been at the heart of branding: shapes, colors, objects. The way we interpret them influences our behaviors – even if we don’t realize it. Symbols speak louder than words because our brains decode the meaning of images thousands of times faster than text – 60,000 times faster, to be precise. They are easier to remember and shorten the meaning effortlessly and irresistibly. Successful brands do it all the time. Primed like Pavlov’s dogs, we can start to get hungry when we see red and yellow because we associate it with McDonald’s. The more we get to know a brand, the more value we derive from its symbols. This triggers an emotional reaction. Like buying a Chanel handbag and joining an elite group with high social status or wearing Nike clothes and associating with an active lifestyle. Symbols represent the personality of a brand.

But symbolism in the metaverse is different from symbolism in the physical realm.

It’s crucial to recognize that consumers entering the metaverse already think and understand things through a lens of symbolism. We grew up with symbols influencing our decisions, and the connections we have with the digital world only accelerates the connections we have with brands. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described the metaverse as “the Internet incarnate”. By creating our own avatar, we are all forced to think about how we want to be represented in our most distilled, yet concise format, with the potential to grow and be creative as we see fit. Brands need to apply a similar way of thinking.

[Image: Nike]

Nike was one of the first brands to jump behind this new digital lens with the creation of Nikeland, its personalized digital space in Roblox, an online platform that allows users to program and play games created by others. users. Building its own unique selection of games, with features allowing gamers to shake their mobile phone to unlock lightning speed, Nike is expanding its accessibility to even more consumers. And the transition of this game to having a higher symbolic meaning comes from the “swoosh” emblem that adorns players’ clothing. It’s more than just carrying brands’ branded digital products; Nike digitally associates itself with playfulness and inclusiveness (two facets that make up the IRL meaning of the brand).

[Image: Nike]

Not limited to clothing brands, Wendy’s entry into Fortnite’s “Food Fight” wasn’t just a way to show off where her consumers are for fun. It was a way of creating something that symbolically showed what they stood for. Wendy’s is famous for its fresh meat, and to challenge competitors who use frozen food, the goal of Food Fight game is to eliminate all freezers. By participating, consumers actively respond to symbols that express key elements of Wendy’s brand meaning. And in a final act of symbolism, Twitch coders permanently removed burger freezers from the game at the end of the campaign, effectively removing the (virtual) world of frozen beef forever. genius.

[Screenshot: VMLY&R/Epic Games/Wendy’s]

Yet, it is crucial to understand that this is not a one-way transformation. There is still a physical world in which we all exist. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, this movement will “bring computing into the real world and bring the real world into computing.” During Burberry’s Honor of Kings appearance, players could purchase a Burberry apparel “skin” featuring looks pulled from its SS/21 “In Bloom” collection and signature house checks. Seamlessly blending digital with reality, the clothes are available for sale online and in physical stores. The symbolism here comes from the brands belief that beauty comes from the intersection between humanity and nature, where the character of Honor of Kings Yao embodies the spirit of nature as she can take the form of a deer .

[Screenshot: TiMi Studio Group]

Merging the two fields is essential. To do this, brands will need to create immersive, multi-sensory experiences that truly transport consumers. I recently spoke with Jordan Harper White, a New York-based creative director and project manager who has worked at the intersection of physical and digital spaces for a decade. He argues that brands need to think symbolically, beyond just the visual, if they are to succeed in the metaverse: “Creatives in the space need to plan hybrid collaborations between audio, visual, experiential designers and emerging technologies that integrate all of our senses to truly merge the digital realm with our physical world.

Harper White led the team that brought IBM’s artificial intelligence Watson to the 2019 US Open. Usually, AI tennis highlights are reserved for viewers and player coaches, but IBM created a physical experience which reflects technology’s ability to deliver instant highlights of every game based on fans’ curiosity, preferences and choices. Additionally, through Azure Kinect, IBM shared an experience with fans to mimic what it was like to be a gamer through gestures, movements and facial expressions and allowed them to discover familiar brand experiences. in a whole new way. This physical experience then reinforced the value of AI throughout their lives in different industries, demonstrating IBM’s ability to not only change the game, but also help them interact with the world in different ways.

While we don’t know what the future of the Metaverse will look like, we can learn from the digital integration of the past. When social media first arrived, brands had to adapt in the same way to cut through the noise. British fitness brand Gymshark was one of the first to take advantage of influencers and in doing so has become globally synonymous with the online health and fitness space. Glossier, a social media-focused beauty brand, has hosted pop-up stores around the world focused on community building and brand awareness. The pop-up’s decorative backdrop and Instagrammable aesthetic blended the physical realm with the digital, creating engaging content that empowered its customers to share content that gave them their own voice, in line with their mission to “give a voice through beauty”.

What is clear is that in this new “phygital” space of the metaverse, the power of symbolism for brands knows no bounds. Those who can harness it to elevate what they stand for will be the ones who succeed and ultimately succeed in connecting with their target in new and exciting ways.

Molly Rowan-Hamilton is Chief Strategy Officer at BrandOpus.

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